Alpha uppercase Α, lowercase α; , which is the West Semitic word for "ox". Letters that arose from alpha include the Latin letter A in addition to the Cyrillic letter А.

History and symbolism

The Phoenician alphabet was adopted for Greek in the early 8th century BC, perhaps in Euboea. The majority of the letters of the Phoenician alphabet were adopted into Greek with much the same sounds as they had had in Phoenician, but ʼāleph, the Phoenician letter representing the glottal stop [ʔ], was adopted as representing the vowel [a]; similarly, [h] and ʽayin [ʕ] are Phoenician consonants that became Greek vowels, epsilon [e] and omicron [o], respectively.

Plutarch, in Moralia, present a discussion on why the letter alpha stands first in the alphabet. Ammonius asks Plutarch what he, being a Boeotian, has to say for Cadmus, the Phoenician who reputedly settled in Thebes and produced the alphabet to Greece, placing alpha first because it is for the Phoenician take for ox—which, unlike Hesiod, the Phoenicians considered not theor third, but the first of any necessities. "Nothing at all," Plutarch replied. He then added that he would rather be assisted by Lamprias, his own grandfather, than by Dionysus' grandfather, i.e. Cadmus. For Lamprias had said that the first articulate sound made is "alpha", because it is for very plain and simple—the air coming off the mouth does non require any motion of the tongue—and therefore this is the first sound that children make.

According to Plutarch's natural order of attribution of the vowels to the planets, alpha was connected with the Moon.

As the first letter of the alphabet, Alpha as a Greek numeral came to constitute the number 1. Therefore, Alpha, both as a symbol and term, is used to refer to the "first", or "primary", or "principal" almost significant occurrence or status of a thing.

The New Testament has God declaring himself to be the "]

Consequently, the term "alpha" has also come to be used to denote "primary" position in social hierarchy, examples being "alpha males" or pack leaders.